After initial doubts over the identity of the match official for the final between Perak and Kedah, Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has confirmed that the use of foreign referees will have its very first test in the match on July 27 at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
FAM shared that they have sent out three separate requests to the Thailand FA, Japan FA and Australia FA with the latter two being the only ones who have responded with positive interest. FAM general-secretary Stuart Ramalingam admitted after the 55th FAM Congress on Saturday that a deal is close to being finalised with the Japan FA.
With FAM and JFA having already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the past, the desire to use their refereeing expertise is justified as Japanese match officials are more often than not present at major international competitions such as the FIFA World Cup.
"Three referees will be from the foreign country meaning the main referee and the two assistants. If we are going to bring, it will bring them as a set. One of the directions is to ensure that we are able to try something. As the president said, football is a game of opinions. We have split camps on those wanting to have foreign referees and those who don't.
"An opportunity like is, is for us to try and see how it goes. We are not saying we are going to put foreign referees in all the games in Malaysian football but this is an opportunity to give it a try. This will be then studied internally then we will then know what difference it makes," said Stuart after the congress.
Stuart also went on to explain that while not decided yet, the cost to bring the three match officials to referee in the FA Cup final is likely to be borne by the Malaysian Football League (MFL) considering that the competition is under their purview.
Over the past year, Malaysian match officials have taken major hammerings from teams, club officials and fans alike over their performances in the domestic league. The Malaysia Cup final last year between Perak and Pahang created much furore over the actions or perceived lack of action from the referee of that day, Suresh Jayaraman.
Earlier this year, the Professional Match Officials of Malaysia (PMOM) was created in a move to improve the quality of referees and assistant referees following the methods employed in the English Premier League. While waiting for the entire process to be completed, foreign referees have been mooted as the alternative option and they will get a first viewing come the cup final.
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